When going through a divorce, there may be many points of disagreement between you and your partner. One common disagreement is who the children should live with and what custody arrangement you should have. If you think that your children will have a better standard of living if they live with you full time, then you may want to apply for physical custody of your children, with the other parent retaining visitation and decision making rights. However, if you think that your spouse is an unfit parent and you are unable to co-parent with them, you may apply for sole custody.
Whether you want physical custody or sole legal custody of your children, it is important to know how to approach the situation. Below are five tips to help you gain the custody you seek.
Create a Parenting Plan
The ideal custody situation involves you and your partner working together to create a parenting plan that you both agree to follow. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Even if you are working on your own, it is a good idea to create one or two drafts of a parenting plan that shows how you are willing to split legal and physical rights with your partner. You should be specific in your plan, including details such as when the children will spend time with you or their other parent and how you will reach major decisions.
If your case ends up going to court, these documents will show that you are willing to have the other parent in your child's life and are less likely to create a divide between the child and their noncustodial parent, which can look good for you. If your case is settled out of court, your parenting plans will provide an excellent foundation for you and the other parent to deal with custody issues as they arise.
Avoid Court if Possible
In the U.S., around 69% of parents gain sole custody of their children if their case is settled out of court. However, if they go to court, joint custody is awarded more often and only 55% of cases are awarded sole custody. Statistically, you have a better chance of gaining sole custody if your custody arrangement can be decided on your own or through mediation.
During mediation, you should make sure that you have all of your information prepared as if your case were to go to court. This will show the other parent that you have a strong case and they may decide to avoid legal fees and a drawn out custody battle by agreeing to give you greater parental control.
Showcase Your Strengths as Opposed to Your Partner's Weaknesses
If your custody case does go to court, you will want to provide information that showcases your parenting strengths. This includes showing that you are able to provide a stable physical home and psychological support for your children. Being involved in their daily routine and having a strong bond with your children strengthens your case but is not the sole deciding factor in regards to custody.
Document Any Physical or Emotional Abuse with the Police
A judge will rarely place children in the custody of an abusive parent. Even if the parent is only abusive towards the other parent and has never abused the children, their right to custody may be forfeited. However, it is important that abuse has been documented through the proper channels. If your significant other has been abusive, you should file for a restraining order and make sure that you have copies of all police reports of domestic violence.
Ask for a GAL
A guardian ad litem is a social worker appointed by the court to gather information about your custody case. They will ask family members and other adults involved in your child's life about your current relationship with your child as well as their living situation. Before requesting a GAL, it is important to be sure that you have a strong reason for the custody that you are requesting, because a GAL will give their opinion of the best interest of the child, which is often joint-custody.
Custody is a complex legal issue and no two situations are the same. While these tips may help you gain the level of custody you are seeking, it is important to consult a lawyer about your specific situation. For more information, contact a company like Hart Law Offices, PC.